Why You’re Staying Where You Are (& How to Move On)


Have you ever been in a situation in life where you weren’t happy with where you were at – but you somehow couldn’t get up the motivation to change? I don’t mean cases where there are good reasons (such as financial ones) to hold back from change, but when there’s not really anything stopping you except yourself.

Here are a few, very very common, examples of where you might be stuck.

  • You smoke. You want to quit for the sake of your health and your wallet, but every morning, you light up before breakfast.
  • You’re currently in college, and you know you’d perform better if only you could get up earlier … but despite repeated resolutions, you rarely make it out of bed before noon.
  • You’re a hundred pounds overweight. You’d love to be thinner – with more energy and more choices of where to buy clothes – but your diets never last past Monday.
  • You’ve had the same, dull, “temporary” job since you got out of college. You know you’ll never enjoy it or get any further with it, but every time you think about moving on, you feel paralysed
  • You know you drink too much – but you can’t face the thought of a weekend without alcohol.

The difficulty is that, in almost any situation, there’s some good stuff (even when it comes at a cost). However fed up you are about your smoking, your weight or your job, there are reasons why you’ve not yet done anything about it – and if you’re ever going to change, you need to consider and confront these reasons.

As you read on, I’d like you to have in mind a situation in your own life where you want to change but can’t seem to ever get around to it. Maybe you want to start your own business, improve your health, leave an unfulfilling relationship, or learn something new. Think about this as you read the next few paragraphs, and consider how they might apply to your specific circumstances.

Ask Yourself … What’s Good About My Current Situation?

A crucial question to ask – and to answer honestly – is “what’s good about my current situation”? Don’t dismiss this by saying “nothing”, because there always will be something, even if it’s simply the comfort and familiarity of routine. In many cases, the pull will be much stronger.

Don’t dismiss “stupid” reasons, too. These are often the unacknowledged ones which we need to recognize in order to move beyond them.

To make this a bit clearer, I’ll take the example of someone who’s currently overweight. The “good stuff” about the current situation could include:

  • Being able to eat favourite foods like candy and chips
  • Having a wardrobe of clothes that fits (losing weight would mean buying clothes in a different size)
  • Fitting in with friends and family who are also overweight
  • Sticking to a comfortable routine with grocery shopping and meals
  • Having an identity based on being “big” (perhaps more common for men)
  • Not having to worry about being an object of sexual desire (probably more common for women)
  • Not needing to find time and energy to exercise

Some of these reasons might seem a bit silly or odd – but they’re all reasons why people can find themselves struggling to even get started on a diet.

If you want to dig into the reasons behind your own reluctance to change, you might find that some of these help:

Talk to a Friend or Coach

Talking your situation through with a trusted friend can help, as simply putting things into words can get you thinking about them. A coach (or even a therapist) will have the training and skills to help you uncover motivations and blocks that could go back a long way.

Ask Yourself Questions

If you don’t have anyone who you can confide in, try talking to yourself! Some powerful questions to explore why you haven’t changed yet include:

  • What do I enjoy about (smoking/my weight/my job)? Note: this may be where reasons that you label as “silly” or insignificant come in, like “I enjoy having an excuse to take a break from work for a cigarette”. Don’t ignore these!
  • How would my day or week be different if I did successfully implement this change? Be as specific as possible here.
  • What would I have to give up from my current life?

Journal About It

As a writer, I find that working through my thoughts with pen and paper (or keyboard and screen) is a great way to clarify how I’m feeling. It’s also a good way to focus, if you often find your thoughts wandering when you try to simply think through a situation.

Give yourself at least fifteen minutes to sit down, with no distractions, and write some answers to the questions above – or simply brainstorm around the topic of “quitting smoking” or “leaving my job” etc.

My feeling is that we often underestimate or ignore the mental barriers that we have towards change. It’s easy to find external circumstances (like finances, family, lack of necessary qualifications) that are holding us back, but hard to pin-point these internal ones. If you’ve experienced times where the “good stuff” in an otherwise bad situation was holding you back from change, or if you’re going through something like that at the moment, it would be fantastic to hear your own experiences in the comments.

Photo by helgasms!

17 thoughts on “Why You’re Staying Where You Are (& How to Move On)”

  1. Hi Ali,

    It is a good idea to find someone who can guide us and provide some little nudges to help us move one. Having a life coach would be a great idea.


  2. Interesting post about how to make changes. I’ve found my blogging efforts have really helped me to get unstuck from where I’m at. Although I’m still searching for a job, I figure a blog that is growing demonstrates several good traits to a potential employer. I think you made some other interesting points here. I actually wrote a post just today about how to follow through on things you’ve committed to.

  3. I also like to get my thoughts on paper. It usually becomes a ugly looking paper, but it makes sense to me. And that is important.

    Sometimes we are just stuck in a routine, and we are fine with that. We have a great word in Dutch for it ‘Sleur’ it means Drag. It just keep dragging you and dragging you. And that is something you have to break out.

    Break out of your sleur! Is a common heard sentence here in the Netherlands ;)

    1. Great word! I’ll have to remember that one :-) It’s got a nice sound to it too, “sleur” … can’t you just *hear* the drag and lethargy?

  4. We tend to use a lot of justification and rationalization after the fact. Realizing how unhelpful such behavior is can open up insight into what is really going on. It’s often a shock. Shock is good because it spurs action. Learning self-discipline is another all-around useful life skill that can be utilized to pull ourselves out of our behavioral holes.


  5. You’ve given a very simple and easy way to look at our patterns. It really just takes a looking, a gentle observation, without analyzing or judging.

    Release techniques like EFT, Sedona, beyond-karma release, can help us with some of the aspects of stuck patterns. For addictions, I suggest Rational Recovery.

    My feeling is when there is true inspiration, there is no need to discipline or motivation. True inspiration is found in inner stillness.

  6. Up until a month ago I had been in a rut for 9 months and my partner of 5 years left me because of it.
    I have found alot about myself in the last month since the breakup by just sitting and asking myself the question of why i have never made the nessasery changes in which to make my life the best it can be.
    What i found really great is the fact that when i asked myself questions such as “How would walking every day make my life better?” or “would saying I can instead of I can’t make a real difference?” i have a better attitude towards them than i did in the past when i just told myself i need to do it. I have also found my Blogging helps me to “rant” about something that is bothering me or that is stuck in my head. It helps me to “get over it” and move on. This Blog is a great example of how my life was, i just did the same routine ever day because it was the easy option. Now just form changing my thinking, i have so much on my plate its hard to keep up with it all

    1. Sorry to hear about your break-up, Brendan. It’s great that you used it to turn things around, though — sounds like you’re asking yourself all the right questions!

      You’re spot-on that a rut or routine is generally the easy option: it takes a bit of energy and determination to break out sometimes.

      Like you, I sometimes feel I’ve got a bit too much on my plate — but in all honesty, I’d rather have too many things I want to do and not enough time, than have tons of time and nothing that I care enough about.

  7. I wanted to expand my social circle but I kept frequenting the same places and meeting the same people. I had to go to different social events to meet like minded and interesting people. After awhile enough is enough and I had to drop some people as well. People who were negative. Thanks for the post!

  8. Hi Ali .. good points .. also when we actually do get to do it .. we feel so much better – mind over matter is the trick I think, and that habit forming 21 days .. if you do it for 21 days, then it’s set .. and you’ll have worked yourself so far forward through your challenge that the ‘rest of the change’ is relatively easy.

    Mind over matter .. that’s for me!

    Go well and hav e a great day ..
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters

  9. Interesting topic, Ali. I currently attend college and reading this post reminded me of the things I definitely have to improve on when I return in the fall. I wasn’t happy with grades I was getting, but I was having a fun time. I realized that was wrong, and I should’ve earned my enjoyment instead of obtain it for free.

    Thanks for reminding me to move on and improve on my past failures.

  10. Thanks for this Ali. Another great question I tend to ask myself is what feelings I’m avoiding by doing the habit I’m taking a look at. For me the biggest habit I’ve been working on is retreating into my cave and working too much, and this allows me to avoid having to experience the messiness of relating with people. Recognizing this actually puts things into perspective, because when I seriously think about it that “messiness” doesn’t seem so scary.

  11. thanks for the post:)
    educating yourself about the dangers of being where you are can also provide some motivation to kicking of bad habits

  12. As someone who lost 80 pounds, I can’t help but agree with the assertion that actions are thousands of times more powerful than intentions. I feel that the best way to change a habit that’s been giving us trouble for most of our lives is to act before we are ready.

    Our minds are constantly giving us reasons why we shouldn’t change negative habits that seem to harmonize with our weaknesses. That is to be expected depending on our personality types and the particular habits that we seek to change. Sometimes, we have to act before our minds have a chance to rationalize inaction in order to affect change.

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